The Prime Minister is expected to take a “cautious” approach in tomorrow’s briefing, where he will lay out the Government’s “roadmap” out of the UK’s third coronavirus lockdown. But Professor Mark Woolhouse of Edinburgh University, who contributes to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) sub-group Spi-M, has told Mr Johnson outdoors sports can be allowed immediately.
In an interview with the Observer, Prof Woolhouse there was no need for Mr Johnson to be “ultra-cautious” in lifting restrictions.
Referencing the Prime Minister’s comments on decisions being based on “data not dates”, he said: “Well, the data is extremely good, far better than anyone, including me, anticipated two or three weeks ago.
“Hospitalisations, deaths and case numbers have all plunged while vaccinations have already reached a quarter of the adult population.
“The corollary is that if we plan to ease lockdown in a data-driven way, we should right now be looking at starting the process of coming out of lockdown earlier than we were thinking about two or three weeks ago.
“The data drive has to go both ways.”
READ MORE: MPs push for early lockdown release as all adults to be jabbed by end of July
Prof Woolhouse insisted it would be safe to lift some measures on outdoor exercise, as the proportion of coronavirus infections occurring outside is extremely low.
He added: “This virus very rarely transmits outdoors. So, quite honestly, outdoor activities that don’t involve close physical contact could be adopted now.
“That is not an argument to say we can have crowds back at football matches. But sports involving small numbers of players or sports for children: they could start perfectly safely today.”
The Guardian quoted Dr Müge Çevik, a lecturer in infectious diseases and medical virology at the University of St Andrews, earlier this week as saying: “We have known for some time that only about 10 percent of transmission events are linked to outdoor activities.”
Concluding his comments, the professor said while there must be provisions in place should restrictions be lifted, “if you ask what should the Government be considering, then measures to allow us to have outdoor activities should be right at the top of the list”.
It comes after The Covid Recovery Group, comprised of 68 Tory MPs, urged the Prime Minister not to keep lockdown measure past May.
Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers, said it would be “reckless” to maintain anything like the current level of restrictions.
He said: “Tardiness in releasing restrictions might be portrayed by some as caution but it is also acting recklessly with the lives of many others.”
It also comes as the Prime Minister is expected to announce every adult in the UK will be offered at least one coronavirus vaccine by the end of July.
He said on Saturday: “Hitting 15 million vaccinations was a significant milestone, but there will be no let-up, and I want to see the rollout go further and faster in the coming weeks.
“We will now aim to offer a jab to every adult by the end of July, helping us protect the most vulnerable sooner, and take further steps to ease some of the restrictions in place.
“But there should be no doubt – the route out of lockdown will be cautious and phased, as we all continue to protect ourselves and those around us”
Mr Johnson will speak also on Monday to detail his ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown, previously saying he wants progress away from the measure to be “cautious but irreversible”.
He will meet with senior ministers today to finalise details of the plans, before the Cabinet looks through them tomorrow.
As of yesterday, 17,247,442 Brits have received their first dose of a vaccine, with 604,885 getting second doses.
Yesterday also saw another 10,406 cases and 445 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test.
In total, the UK has seen 4,105,675 cases and 120,365 deaths.